The Texas Crutch

By W.F. Strong

I like that Texas is so famous for certain things that those things carry the Texas brand all around the world. Like Texas toast, for instance. Or Texas Hold ‘em poker. The Texas two-step. Texas-style brisket. And even within the specialized world of backyard chefs, the brisket has a sub-specialty technique known as the Texas crutch. This technique allegedly originated in Texas, and therefore carries the Texas name throughout the barbecue world.

I’m going to teach you about this technique over the next three minutes. It may come in handy this summer when you are slow-smoking a fine brisket over the required 15 hours and suddenly need to hurry it along without ruining it. This is merely a suggestion. I know all too well that you don’t mess with Texas and you sure as hell don’t mess with a Texan’s brisket. So I go gently forth with this option.

Suppose, for instance, that you have invited people over to the house to eat at 8 p.m. You remember saying, “Y’all come on over for brisket at 8 p.m. and y’all bring the neighbors. Plenty for everybody.” But now it’s 5 p.m., the brisket has stalled and you realize it won’t be ready until probably 10 p.m. or later. Time for the Texas crutch.

The point of the Texas crutch is to speed up the cooking without losing the holy grail of tenderness. So what you do is get some foil or butcher paper and fashion it into a big, sturdy boat that will hold liquid. Put your brisket in the boat and then pour about a half a cup of apple juice into the boat – not over the brisket because it will rinse off the rub. Some people use bourbon or beer or red wine, but apple juice is preferred because of the enzymes that work diligently to tenderize the brisket.

The next step is to cover the brisket completely with foil or butcher paper and put it back to cook. Crank up the heat to about 250 degrees or 275 degrees, and let the apple juice and heat work their dual-action magic until the core of the brisket is 200 degrees, or twice the outdoor temp of the average Texas summer. Then take it off and let it rest an hour. Now you will have splendid, tender, awesome brisket that all those friends and neighbors will rave about and beg for seconds. The only problem is they will want you to do it again next week.

I love knowing about the technique and using it when I must, but I love even more knowing that in the book on brisketology, there is a chapter called “The Texas Crutch.” I enjoy knowing that the Texas name is on things that travel ’round the world, serving as a kind of advertisement for our culture. It’s our one-of-a-kind branding. And that branding is priceless. A manager at H-E-B told me that products sell much better if they have the Texas star or Texas flag or “Made in Texas” on them. And that branding works just as well in the Mexico H-E-Bs as it does here at home. And if we could trademark the Texas name and symbols, license and sell them, I’m sure we could make enough each year to buy a brisket for every family in the state for what I would call National Texas Brisket Day. Might need some beer and ice cream to go with it. Wonder who could help us out with that?

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Laura Rice